Let’s talk about gender bias in healthcare.
Part of the “Life After Traumatic Brain Injury” series
In 2001, Diane E. Hoffmann and Anita J. Tarzian wrote “The Girl Who Cried Pain.” Through their research, Hoffman and Tarzian concluded that, lacking objective evidence, healthcare providers discount women’s reports of pain due to gender-based biases within the healthcare industry. Women received less aggressive treatment than men, and were more likely to have their pain reported as “emotional” or “not real.”
Twenty years later, gender bias in healthcare continues to impact women’s health. We sat down with Katherine Price Snedaker, Founder and Executive Director of PINK Concussions, to learn more about the challenges faced by women in the brain injury community.
KATHERINE PRICE SNEDAKER: I think if I had to solidify my best advice into one sentence it would be you’re not bad, stupid, crazy or lying.
That’s basically when women call me — and I literally have talked to thousands of women that have called me, texted me, DM’d me on Twitter, Facebook, now Clubhouse. Women call and describe clearly incidents where they received a blow or a car accident or a trauma that could cause brain injury.
Then they describe symptoms that sound like a brain injury. And they say, “But everybody thinks I’m lying about it. Everybody thinks I’m malingering. The doctors don’t think it’s a brain injury.”
So I basically —
WILLIAM RICIGLIANO: I don’t mean interrupt you, but I want to focus on that because it’s so important. I can’t tell you how many clients I have spoken to in my office who clearly have a brain injury and it hasn’t been properly diagnosed, or it’s been completely misdiagnosed. And when I explained to them, you have the symptoms of brain injury, or explain to them that this may be what they have, so many clients will start to cry and get emotional.
And they’ll say to me, “You’re the first person to tell me that I wasn’t crazy.”
And I really think, especially when it comes to women, that’s a significant thing. So talk a little bit more about that.
KATHERINE PRICE SNEDAKER: Yeah, it’s a really low bar. And I’m not diagnosing them over the phone. I couldn’t even diagnose them in an office — I’m a social worker. But I listen to their stories and I say, gosh, it sounds like a brain injury to me. I think you should go back to a doctor.
And if you get a doctor that looks at you or makes a reference to you, that you’re crazy. I think that especially what I am learning is women of color who are going into situations and there may be racial, socioeconomic biases that just appear.
I think in general society, we view women from a lens of what is what is wrong with you mentally? And if we rule all on your mental issues out, then we’ll see what’s wrong with you physically. And I think it’s the opposite for men. Where men come in, they look for a physical problem and men’s mental health is missed.
I mean, again, speaking in general terms, I think too often doctors don’t ask women, have you ever been hit? Have you ever been choked? Have you ever gone to the E.R. from a traumatic event?
I think there are many hidden incidents where from a trauma perspective, you suppress something that’s happened to you. You have symptoms, especially if it’s trauma related. PTSD gets mixed up with TBI issues.
Take a grandmother. A grandmother breaks her hip in her has a traumatic fall from that. Everyone’s focused on the hip replacement. And then later on, a couple of days later, the doctor is now talking to grandma, and grandma just doesn’t seem to be connected to what’s going on. And then we start going down a track of grandma being senile as opposed to grandma has a TBI and grandma needs TBI rehab.